I saw this take on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on Calmgrove‘s site and thought it’d be fun to do. Who doesn’t love the radio programme? With books, it’s just up my alley, but in my version I’m doing books and music. Is this cheating? Well, it’s all a fantasy anyway, so …
So, here’s what’s allowed if you’re stuck on a remote island with no hope of rescue:
i. eight books: The ones you want are, by some miracle, growing on the mango trees in the well-stocked forest that spreads lush and green over a large part of the island.
ii. eight pieces of music: Snap your fingers and they are played on shuffle, pouring out of the morning glory blooms that grow on the island.
iii. a podcast, TV show or movie – for when you really wish to take a break from reading and listening to music.
iv. one luxury you can’t do without — let’s just say the island has plumbing OK? I don’t want to waste my luxury on a flushing toilet.
And here are my picks:
1. Possession by A.S. Byatt
This is one of my favourite novels, but I am guilty of always rushing through it. I will slow down and really savour Byatt’s exciting literary mystery on my island. (It’s time I pay closer attention to the poetry written by Byatt as the work of her characters.)
2. The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula LeGuin
I’m not sure if series are considered one big fat book, but as this is my post, I will say they are. I have been looking forward to rereading this one for the longest time and the books are that wonderful combination of gripping and comforting.
3. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
It’s important to have some reading material that makes you laugh and I choose Pym’s novel to provide some light comic relief. Mind you, it was hard to choose which novel of hers should grow on my island. This one has the best of Pym’s recurring features: clergymen, anthropologists, and spinsters, with the bonus of the hilarious Mrs Bone and her deep distrust of birds.
4. Iban Woman by Golda Mowe
I need a Malaysian book as company and Golda is my Malaysian favourite writer so she (or at least her book) will be with me on this adventure. I love the way Golda incorporates Iban myths into her stories, treating them with such understatement and nonchalance that there is no doubting that the gods she describes truly exist. Perhaps some of them live on my island.
5. The Great Passage by Miura Shion
I may be one of very few people who’d be excited by the idea of a novel about a small group of editors working on a dictionary for fifteen years. The film of this book is as charming and moving as the book in its delicate, subtle examination of the power of words and the connections between people. (And, yes, I’ve also read the manga and watched the anime, both excellent.)
6. A Degree of Mastery: A Journey Through Book Arts Apprenticeship
I love reading detailed descriptions about how things are made. That the objects being created and restored are books is a plus. I enjoyed this so much when I first read it that I’m surprised I have never re-read it! There will be time for many rereads on my island.
7. The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin and
8. The Plum in the Golden Vase by Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng
I have chosen two books that are on my must-read list, which I do worry I shall never get around to reading. They are two of the six novels considered great classics of Chinese literature. Of course the editions that grow on my island will be the best translations with beautiful illustrations and extensive, meticulously researched footnotes.
- Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
- Take 5 by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
- Love Me or Leave Me by Nina Simone
- Golden Years by David Bowie
- Our Favourite Shop by The Style Council
- Northern Sky by Nick Drake
- A Case of You by Joni Mitchell
- Farewell, Farewell by Fairport Convention
Taking a break from books and music:
I’d like the complete The West Wing series. That’s seven seasons, thank you very much. This series is my go-to when I’m feeling disgruntled. It’s a fantasy West Wing that has never existed and probably couldn’t ever exist, but that’s why I love it. It gives me hope and inspires me to do better. It would probably also assure me that I’m much better alone on an island. #hellisotherpeople
My Luxury Item:
How about a three storey , fully-furnished and functioning 1:12 scale dollhouse. Any design from any era except for plastic Barbie or Sylvanian Families houses. I dream about owning such a house in RL so it would definitely be on this fantasy island.
3 thoughts on “Desert Island Ahoy!”
We have some overlaps (Le Guin, Bowie, Excellent Women, miniatures, classic Chinese novels), but I’ll take comedy over Jed Bartlett’s all-too earnest drama any day: The Good Place, please.
I guess I need that earnest vibe being surrounded by apathetic fools! But you’re right — if I’m all alone on my island I might wish for something lighter. 🤔
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